We can kick the Cardinals’ ass. But they can kick ours.
And that, mis amigos, is the essence of faith and fear as regards what might happen next in Flushing, St. Louis and potentially Flushing again. In 20 months on the beat, I’ve never had the opportunity to apply our signature concept in such stark, significant terms.
A potential pennant would seem to require it.
FAITH These are our Mets, winners of 100 games to date, rampagers of the East, sweepers of the Dodgers. Our team, our time, our et al.
FEAR Those are the Cardinals, perennial contender, loaded with experience and gamers.
FAITH We were a platinum-level contributor to the Cardinal collapse that sent them reeling practically out of sight in the last six weeks of the regular season.
FEAR The team we swept in late August isn’t quite the team we’ll face. Ineffective Isringhausen and Mulder are gone. Edmonds is back as much as he can be.
FAITH Delgado, Lo Duca and Wright did some mighty fine hitting in the Dodger series. The odds figure Reyes and Beltran will join them.
FEAR Who’s to say that even if the guys who got only a few hits or a lot of walks “step up” that the guys who ruled the LDS won’t slump? Beltran doesn’t seem to be 100% healthy and didn’t Reyes take a shoulder in the knee from Furcal?
FAITH We have a great bullpen. It’s the bedrock of our success.
FEAR Our starting pitching is our starting pitching. Can Glavine be as good as he was in Game Two of the last round, which was very darn good? Can Maine be stretched? Can Trachsel now give one of those “see, he can be effective” efforts? Oliver Perez? And will the gate fall off the bullpen from overuse and if so, will it be a metaphor for Guillermo Mota’s right arm?
FAITH Willie has made almost all the right moves. He’s a smart manager and his calm is reassuring.
FEAR Will he adapt when La Russa pulls a squeeze? Will Willie ever try something like that with players like Reyes and Chavez? Will that characteristic Randolph stubborn streak seem less like patience and more like being caught napping?
FAITH Reyes is the difference-maker on the Mets. Eckstein may be a pest, but Jose can run all day.
FEAR But on Yadier Molina? Remember how Mike Matheny cut his hand on the eve of the 2000 NLCS? He had a great arm and I broke one of my own commandments and was thrilled to hear he was out before I realized that was bad form and that we didn’t run much anyway. Is Somebody getting even for my taking pleasure in another’s injury?
FAITH If Cliff can move, he can play. We saw what he could do in the Division Series and it was almost like having our 2005 Monsta out of the cage.
FEAR If Cliff can move, will he fool Willie/Omar into putting him on the roster only to go down? It’s a hypothetical to say we could have beaten L.A. without him. Maybe we could have, but the truth is we didn’t. He was a part of it all. I love Endy, but Floyd’s bat was hot at just the right moment. I guess we’ll know more later this morning. Damn I hope he’s well enough to play, but I also hope he’s not just well enough to make the roster and then an early exit. (And I hope his spot, if it’s not his, isn’t occupied by Ledee or Milledge or Hernandez or DiFelice, which is tough since those are essentially the only options I can fathom.)
FAITH Where Albert Pujols is concerned, the only faith I have is that as good as he is, particularly against us, that we have overstated the case for him because, well, he doesn’t hit 1.000 against us — it only seems like it.
FEAR Cripes. Pujols. We haven’t gotten him out his entire career, though his numbers this year were mostly from one game…which means he’s due.
FAITH There’s only one Pujols on that club.
FEAR Scott Spiezio, Preston Wilson, an 80% Scott Rolen, that wannabe thug Ronnie “I’m Not Rafael” Belliard, lucky Gary Bennett…every one of them gives me night sweats (it’s night and I’m sweating). You don’t have to be Albert Pujols get a big hit against the Mets.
FAITH Jose Vizcaino wasn’t on their NLDS roster.
FEAR Jose Vizcaino continues to breathe.
FAITH No lefties in the Cardinal rotation.
FEAR They all laughed at Christopher Columbus, but not as much as at Kenny Rogers, who recently proved the skeptics wrong. Jeff Weaver is Kenny Rogers’ spiritual nephew and there will be a tendency to write him off. Don’t. He can pitch.
FAITH By the time we see Chris Carpenter, we could be up 2-0.
FEAR We could be down 0-2 when we see Chris Carpenter.
FAITH We haven’t waited this long to not last longer than this.
FEAR Each team remaining in the playoffs has waited since the 1980s to win another World Series. Somebody will be throwing off the shackles of a veritable eternity. We’re no more inherently “owed” this than the Cardinals, Tigers or Athletics.
FAITH I’ve watched these New York Mets virtually every day since April 3 and they’ve provided a brand of rethrilliency unmatched in team history. They hit better than any team we’ve ever had. They pitch better than they should. They close like nothing we’ve ever had. We have star players, role players, special players. We have a T-E-A-M that has earned our love and respect, as evidenced by the Great Wall of Emily. As a bonus, we saw them muddle through a couple of leaden weeks and bust right out again — and we saw them blow a lead in their last playoff game and storm right back to win it. If they play like they can, which they usually do, nobody can beat them. That is why they will win the National League pennant in between four and seven games.